The claimants and the federal government have now both filed their supplemental briefs, as requested by the Supreme Court in the order I discussed here. Reply briefs are due April 20.
After denying that any change to what it presently offers to nonprofits is needed, the basic thrust of the government’s brief is that (1) the Court’s proposal would not work for self-insured claimants; and (2) the Court’s proposal would only work for others “but only at a real cost to its effective implementation.” At page 15, the government says this about those claimants with insured plans: “In theory, however, the government could provide that the same legal obligations arise following any request by an eligible employer with an insured plan for an insurance policy that excluded contraceptives to which the employer objects on religious grounds.” The exact mechanism through which this would work for self-insured plans remains unclear. The brief concludes by asking for a definitive resolution from the Court.
The claimants’ brief argues that (1) yes, as to insured claimants, there are many ways in which the employees of objecting claimants can receive the free coverage the government wants them to receive: it could impose a regulatory requirement on insurers to provide a separate plan for such employees, not backed by the threat of what are described as “draconian penalties” on the employers. Employees would have 2 insurance cards instead of 1; and (2) as to self-insured claimants, there is a related less restrictive means as well: “If commercial insurance companies begin making truly separate contraceptive coverage available to the employees of petitioners with insured plans as contemplated by this Court’s order, then there should be no legal obstacle to allowing additional individuals to enroll in those plans, whether directly through the insurer or through the Exchanges. Indeed, making such contraceptive-only plans available to employees of petitioners with self-insured plans would underscore that such coverage is truly separate from the coverage provided by petitioners that use commercial insurers, as employees of other employers would be receiving essentially the same contraceptive-only policies.” (20)
In June, Harper Collins will release “It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies” by Mary Eberstadt. The publisher’s description follows:
Mary Eberstadt, “one of the most acute and creative social observers of our time,” (Francis Fukuyama) shines a much-needed spotlight on a disturbing trend in American society: discrimination against traditional religious belief and believers, who are being aggressively pushed out of public life by the concerted efforts of militant secularists.
In It’s Dangerous to Believe, Mary Eberstadt documents how people of faith—especially Christians who adhere to traditional religious beliefs—face widespread discrimination in today’s increasingly secular society. Eberstadt details how recent laws, court decisions, and intimidation on campuses and elsewhere threaten believers who fear losing their jobs, their communities, and their basic freedoms solely because of their convictions. They fear that their religious universities and colleges will capitulate to aggressive secularist demands. They fear that they and their families will be ostracized or will have to lose their religion because of mounting social and financial penalties for believing. They fear they won’t be able to maintain charitable operations that help the sick and feed the hungry.
Is this what we want for our country?
Religious freedom is a fundamental right, enshrined in the First Amendment. With It’s Dangerous to Believe, Eberstadt calls attention to this growing bigotry and seeks to open the minds of secular liberals whose otherwise good intentions are transforming them into modern inquisitors. Not until these progressives live up to their own standards of tolerance and diversity, she reminds us, can we build the inclusive society America was meant to be.
In June, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Islam and Competing Nationalisms in the Middle East, 1876-1926” by Kamal Soleimani (historian of the Modern Middle East and Islamic world). The publisher’s description follows:
Opposing a binary perspective that consolidates ethnicity, religion, and nationalism into separate spheres, this book demonstrates that neither nationalism nor religion can be studied in isolation in the Middle East. Religious interpretation, like other systems of meaning-production, is affected by its historical and political contexts, and the processes of interpretation and religious translation bleed into the institutional discourses and processes of nation-building. This book calls into question the foundational epistemologies of the nation-state by centering on the pivotal and intimate role Islam played in the emergence of the nation-state, showing the entanglements and reciprocities of nationalism and religious thought as they played out in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Middle East.